The two year linear AQA A level psychology course begins with a detailed look into human memory and explanative models, mainly from the cognitive approach, while research methods are also taught and evaluated. Students go on to explore a further five approaches to explain human behaviour; namely the behaviourist, biological, social learning theory, psychodynamic and humanistic approaches. The course allows them to apply theories from each approach to explain different types of social influence and how to use theories to treat psychological conditions like depression and phobias. During the second year A level psychology students develop further evaluative skills to critically compare and contrast approaches in terms of various issues and debates that researches must consider, for example the nature versus nurture debate for reasoning behind our thoughts and actions. This topic starts by taking more account of ethics, gender bias and cultural bias. The three application options currently taught are cognition and development, eating behaviour and aggression. The course is taught by two subject specialists; Miss Start and Mrs Whelan.
Mentoring in psychology currently takes the form of a buddy system with pairings between Year 12 and Year 13 students. Each group meets weekly or fortnightly, depending on their timetable commitments, to discuss the course and share resources. Year 13 students act as the lead by asking questions about topics from their previous year, though in doing so they are revisiting the content and it forms part of their revision, the Year 12 students therefore have another expert to review their lessons with and begin to compare and contrast the approaches. The buddy system aims to get students to share their folders, essay and exam feedback, catch up on missed work, develop revision materials and share further reading and research materials. Help is also available to all students during non contact time meetings with staff and guided revision towards exam seasons.
In both year groups we aim to extend and challenge our students by requiring them to apply their knowledge in real life contexts. We offer further reading resources and extensions by topic, for example recommended listening like the BBC mind changers series or documentaries like secrets of the human brain. The department has a Twitter account which it also uses to raise current issues in the media and to make suggestions to students for further study. Recommendations for further study to challenge our most able students can be found within lessons and aim to inspire them to go beyond the course in their individual work.
Students have opportunities to conduct research throughout the course using other members of the school community and therefore support or refute their research theories. They must of course follow ethical guidelines including informed consent and the right to withdraw for all participants so this develops their understanding of research method practicalities. We have a tip to BGU to look into further study of psychology courses and chances for alumni to return and share their university experiences as a form of career development and inspiration.
We share topic content using the padlet forum:
A good starting point for independent learning:
AQA A level course syllabus:
Crash course in psychology:
BBC all in the mind podcast series: